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A Different Way of Life: Holidays in Stewartfield Rows, Broxburn

by Peggy Charlton - February 2012

Peggy's father was born at 77 Stewartfield Rows, Broxburn in 1907 and moved to Hertfordshire in the 1930's in search of work. Here, Peggy shares with us her memories of holidays with her grandfather Nicol Reid, a shale miner, and grandmother Sarah (née Ballantyne).

My grandfather, Nicol Reid, was an oil shale miner and with his wife Sarah and their five children lived at No. 77 Stewartfield, Broxburn. My father, George, was the oldest child (born in 1907) and he moved to Hertfordshire in the 1930's to find work. He married my mother, Sarah, in 1939.

I remember staying with my grandparents at 77 Stewartfield for holidays in 1946 and 1949 and was fascinated by many things there which I had not experienced before.

No. 77 was a "back to back" home with a kitchen / living room and another room alongside that. Gas lighting was installed in both rooms. The kitchen had a coal-fired range and water had to be fetched from a standpipe. I think there was a sink under the window and I certainly remember an enamel bowl for hand washing. A bucket of water always stood ready for using.

There were two bed recesses in this room and, as a child, I enjoyed being put to bed in one of them and having the curatins drawn across so that I could go to sleep and the adults could continue chatting.

The other room had an open fire and, at the time I was there, one bed recess.

The toilets and wash-house were in a block, somewhere behind the row. I remember being taken to the toilet by granny so that she could unlock the door for me and make sure it was clean before I was allowed to go in - she also checked to see that I had not left any puddles behind!

She was an extremely houseproud person - her home was clean, polished and tidy. It must have been very hard work to keep it like that, especially as the paths around the houses, and out to the drying green, were made of ashes.

My last visit to No. 77 Stewartfield was in 1957 to stay with my Aunt Sarah, the youngest child of Nicol and Sarah. She lived at No. 77 with her parents and then with her husband and children.

It was not until my visit in 1957 that I realised the lovely pink "mountains" in Broxburn were actually shale tips!

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